‘Mama why didn’t you come today to my school for the peace day ceremony?’
What?! That was today? When?!
‘Yes everybody’s mama and baba were there I couldn’t see you.’
Heart dropping moment. I had forgotten. Completely and Utterly Forgotten.
I gathered up all the excuses I could, not to offer him, but to offer myself – I had an ultrasound scan today, I had a Glucose tolerance test straight after (and we all know how long that can take). At home his little sister drew all over her hands and face with marker pen – and I had to give her a bath to wash it all away….
But to him all I could say was ‘sorry’
‘I’m so sorry jaanu … … I’m sorry mama totally forgot’.
We were driving home, I had just picked him up from school. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal, surely someone’s parents probably couldn’t make it either? But I found myself asking him if he would forgive me (for not being there).
‘Yah OKAY’ he said in only the way your barely turned 6 year old could say it – all at once full of sincerity and nonchalance.
Yet I couldn’t shake it off.
Later that night I texted a friend – ‘… I feel like such a crappy mama’
And the story came out … ‘… He said he was looking for me … I totally forgot…’
I turned to other mama friends in my tribe … and of course my sisters. None of whom are yet mothers but I knew they would feel my pain because to my son they are basically his second, third and fourth mothers! (The only people who I could tell every single tiny detail of the kid’s day to and they would still ask me to share more.)
One friend quoted Imam Gazali to me, another told me to ‘shut up and save your emotion and energies’ but you know what they all said?
‘I forgot too…and he was the main performer…’
‘You are a good mom’
‘I’ve done this before…’
These women are, in my eyes, exceptional mothers. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the worst. I was in the company of ‘good moms’
‘Good moms’ who forgot.
One of my sisters soon replied ~ in true ‘Khala (maternal aunt) style’ she narrated a story that completely empathised with her nephew. Of a morning in primary school when she was around the same age as him during a class assembly to which parents were invited, she recalled of our mama-
“During the whole assembly I kept looking for her but couldn’t see her… When we singing our last hymn, the doors opened and its was mama with (our baby sister ) in her pram… She had just run really late and had missed the whole thing … “
She went on to say that she remembered her teachers reassuring her later on and that she “…nodded but cried a bit at playtime anyway” !
Have you been the kid whose parent forgot to show up? I started wondering if this could be one of those ‘growing up’ rites of passage. To be disappointed in your parent(s) and to learn to forgive them. Or may be it is a ‘parenting’ rite of passage? The ‘forgetting it’s your kid’s big performance at school and having your heart crushed when your child tells you everyone else’s parent was there and that they were looking for you’
Those who have experienced this…. I know you get it.
(Paraphrasing) ” …just watch a young child enter a room full of people and notice the first thing they do is look for their parent. To find them and centre themselves. Now imagine a child who is looking and looking in a world full of people and it can’t find that person…’
He was of course talking about not just the orphans of this world but those children with ‘present’ yet still ‘absent’ parents who consistently disappoint them by not showing up.
It was not just pregnancy hormones that made my tears fall on this one. Just the thought of any child experiencing that and my child even for a little while was enough.
That night during our bedtime ritual of saying our ‘Thank yous’ to Allah, (we each take three turns to say ‘Thank you Allah for ‘something/anything during the day’), Ismail said ‘you know if you had come today I would have said thank you Allah for letting mama be there at my peace day ceremony’
Inside I was thinking ‘Wow kid, you really know how to ram home the point!’ But out loud I said ‘And now? How do you feel about it now?’
‘Oh, I don’t care. It’s ok mama I can choose something else’
His little sister waiting patiently for her turn so far, at this point couldn’t wait any longer ~ ‘my turn! my turn!’ and in her truly excited little two year old love said ‘THANK YOU ALLAH FOR MAMA AND BABA !”
Thank you Allah indeed! We slept after that and as it often is with the blessing of sleep the next morning bought some perspective…
As I write this, I have just come back now from morning drop off where I briefly spoke to his teacher about it. She reassured me that there really were not that many parents who attended, but it was a sweet thing that amongst those who did my son was looking for me.
I know we want to do it all, but I admitted to myself then, that this wont be the last time I disappoint my child. That sometimes you can be the parent that doesn’t show up. And that sometimes it really is okay.
Art Credit : Painting by Zarina Teli